Republic of Poland

Article excerpt

Since 1989, reform of Poland's 1952 Constitution--gradually transforming Poland from a communist to a democratic state--has undergone five stages of development. The process began in 1988 with an understanding reached between the government and the opposition within the framework of roundtable talks. The Polish United Worker's Party's (PUWP) recognized political and trade union pluralism in return for the creation of a powerful new office of president. The second stage began with the communist party's overwhelming defeat during the June 1989 general parliamentary elections, in which 35 percent of the Sejm seals were contested and which also resulted in the 24 August 1989 election of Tadeusz Mazowiecki as Poland's first non-communist prime minister. The third stage commenced with the 9 December 1990 presidential elections which brought Lech Walesa to the presidency and the appointment of Jan Bielecki as the second non-communist prime minister in January 1991. The fourth stage commenced after the full Sejm and Senate democratic elections held on 27 October 1991, which resulted in the rule of Jan Olszewski and Hanna Suchochka as Poland's third and fourth non-communist prime ministers. The fifth stage started after the fall 1993 Sejm and Senate elections, with the return of the socialists, the appointment of Waldemar Pawlak as prime minister, and constitutional crisis in Poland.

During the same period, Poland initiated an extensive domestic defense reform--to ensure civilian command and control and extensive restructuring of the military and to return the armed forces to the people. As it did so, Poland also had to grapple with a rapidly changing threat environment. Before 1989, Polish military doctrine viewed the West, specifically NATO, as the primary threat. Until the 14 November 1990 Polish-German border treaty, Poland viewed Germany as a threat. Then until the August 1991 failed coup and resulting disintegration of the USSR in December, Poland viewed the Soviet Union as a threat. Since 1992 Poland has come full-circle; it is now attempting to develop an "all-round" defense strategy regarding primary threats arising from its unstable four eastern border states; Russia, Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine.

Stillborn Defense Reform

To achieve democratic civil-military relations, Poland must establish consensus and law on civilian (president, government, and Parliament) command and control of the defense ministry and military, the former Polish People's Army (PPA). Poland's reform has included amending the Constitution to formalize the round-table agreements to create a new office of the president, an office which for a long period lacked a constitutional basis. Poland still must clarify the lines of authority between the president and government (prime minister and civilian defense minister) and of the government's control of the military in peacetime and war. So far, this effort has failed.

In addition, the Polish reform had to refurbish the image of the military and return the armed forces to Polish society. Because of the extensive use of Polish armed forces in the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and in suppressing strikers on the Baltic coast in December 1970 and in planning and implementing martial law in 1980-81, (1) the military's reputation was tarnished in the population's estimation as well as in its own eyes. (2) To refurbish its image, the reform had to remove Polish United Worker's Party (PUWP) influence from the defense establishment and ensure that Polish military forces are sufficient to guarantee the integrity and sovereignty of Poland. In this part of reform, Poland has been somewhat more successful.

First stage of constitutional reform (1988-June 1989). Not unlike 1918, Poland's new leadership inherited empty political 'traditions.' As Andrzej Korbonski has argued, when Poland reappeared after World War I (Poland disappeared from the map of Europe in 1795), Poland's political leadership inherited empty political traditions. …